Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bombing George Stanley's "Birth of Western Canada", 1940

Getting rich and famous by writing Canadian history is a rare feat.  It is hard enough to turn a profit in a niche market with a limited population of book buyers, let alone trying to do so against the best efforts of the Luftwaffe!  In the case of George F.G. Stanley's classic The Birth of Western Canada: A History of the Riel Rebellions, enemy bombing was added to the normal market problems of the Canadian historian.

Born in Calgary in 1907, Riel historian and political scientist Thomas Flanagan noted in a 1992 edition of The Birth of Western Canada that Stanley had early M├ętis and Sarcee acquaintances.  He began studying at the University of Alberta before a Rhodes Scholarship sent him to Oxford, where he began  work on his doctoral dissertation in 1931.  In 1936, Stanley signed a contract with Longmans Green to publish his work. The book received modest attention and sold several hundred copies over the next several years.

Herbert Mason's Iconic Photo of St. James
Cathedral, 30 Dec. 1940
On 29-30 December 1940, the Luftwaffe put the end to Stanley's sales, when bombing raids destroyed the entire Longmans stock.  As Stanley  wrote in 1960, "one of the minor casualties of this raid was the destruction of the premises of Longmans, Green and Company on Paternoster Row, and the loss of the remaining copies of the original edition of this book. [...] The book thus became, by accident of war rather than by deliberate policy on the part of the publishers, a very limited edition." (Stanley, Birth, 1992, xviii) It was not until 1961 that the book became readily available again when the University of Toronto Press purchased the copyright and eventually printed another seven batches of the book.

Cpt. Stanley 1940 St.FX Bio Page
As for George Stanley, he left a teaching position at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick to serve in the Historical Section of the Canadian army.  By the end of the war he was acting as deputy director.  His direct superior was none other than the legendary Canadian military historian C.P. Stacey.  Stanley continued along this military bent for much of his career, serving at the Royal Military College of Canada for two decades.  Despite his incredible contributions to Canadian history, Stanley is best known as the designer of the modern Canadian flag.  Even in this act Stanley's military influences are shown.  He took his inspiration from the layout of the RMC's banner.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Affectionate Vehicle Names: Crerar vs. Vokes, 1944.

Crerar goes to France
Department of National Defence /
Library and Archives Canada.
Many of us name our vehicles.  They do seem to be animate enough to deserve a nickname, be it "Ol Betsy", "Rusty", or "The Green Bandit."  Soldiers, too, wished to name their vehicles and for the Canadians in Italy, their right to do so became a contentious issue as the I Canadian Corps was being formed.  General Harry Crerar, known for spit and polish discipline, arrived in the Italian theatre convinced that the 1st Canadian Division needed to shape up, and the painting of non-standard letters on vehicles was one aspect which needed to go.

General Chris Vokes, took a different attitude towards the naming of vehicles.  As Vokes put it, "in war a soldier craves affection.  He also craves something on which to lavish his affection: Jeeps, trucks, dogs, women, any damn thing he can get his hands on, even ducks and geese." (Vokes, My Story, 153)  He noted that for the truck driver, this need to show his affection to his vehicle was an extension from the days of the cavalry, when a soldier loved his horse.  Vokes explained in his direct manner, "he'll paint his girl's name on the engine hood, or his wife's, or some old whore's name, it couldn't really mater.  The vehicle is henceforth called by that name, and given tender loving care - proper maintenance."

Crerar finally yielded on the naming of vehicles, but insisted that names would have to be in letters no more than one inch high, inside the cab, on the dash.  Reportedly, in a weeks time, acts of defiance were all too visible.  Names were scrawled loud and proud, "once more sprouting from engine hoods, in the largest possible letters."

The naming of tanks had long been practiced in the Canadian Armoured Corps.  Tanks usually started with the squadron letter.  Tanks of "A" squadron would all begin with the letter A.  An entry in the 5 Canadian Armoured Brigade diary, noted that in the multi-ethnic Eighth Army, one tank's name would have to be altered for reasons of religious sensitivity.  The intelligence officer wrote, "A tk which was named ALLAH has had the name changed to ATILLA.  Indian tps may have been offended at the original name."

Lance-Corporal M. R. Leonard examining the "Little Henry" painting on a Sherman tank of the Three Rivers Regiment near Lucera, Italy, 21 October 1943.Credit: Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-201363

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Calgary City Development, Fun Facts from 1883-1914

Beverly A. Sandalack and Andrei Nicolai's The Calgary Project: urban form/ urban life (2006) plots the planning and development of Calgary from its beginnings to the present and even speculates on the future for the sprawling metropolis.  The initial stage of Calgarian development was shaped by the Canadian Pacific Railway's selection of the southern route through the new city, and the later placement of major mechanical shops in Ogden.  The fire of 1896 punctuates the early period of urban growth, which ended with the end of large-scale immigration at the outbreak of the Great War.

An interesting feature of Calgary's planning in the early days was the offsetting of Calgary's street grid from the dominion lands survey by three degrees.  As the authors note, the correction of these two grids at certain points in the city makes for interesting spaces. (Sandalack, p.8)  One such correction can be observed in 17th Avenue's Tomkins Park.  The City of Calgary's website notes, "Tomkins Park was established in 1915 on land donated by Henry & Elinor Tomkins."
This map of the streets binding Tomkins Park shows 17th Ave S as a correction line for the offset grid system. Google maps.
 Another interesting factoid of early Calgarian development was the lack of regard for the Bow riverfront as a valuable green space.  In 1886, Peter Prince set up his Eau Claire Lumber Company on what was to become Prince's Island park.  He excavated the head of the peninsula to divert water to a waterwheel which ran the sawmill.  This situation drew other manufacturing interests to nearby lots, and town council would grant remarkable control to the sawmill over the banks of the Bow.  As Sandalack and Nicolai write, "by the end of the century, this attitude of civic indifference to the river was reinforced by periodic floods, log jams, and the tendency of nearby residents to use the south bank of the Bow River as a dumping ground for refuse." (Sandalack, p.9)

Eau Claire lumber mill, Calgary, Alberta. 1880s. Glenbow Musuem and Archives. Image No: NA-1015-2

The Calgary Project provides an interesting overview of the city's development, and contains a number of interesting maps of the greater city and representative neighbourhoods.

Classic 48th Highlanders San Leonardo Picture, 10 December 1943

This 10 December 1943 photo of Canadian troops in San Leonardo, Italy, is an iconic Second World War photo.  The picture has been widely reproduced, in part because it demonstrates the extent of the demolished Italian city-scape that is associated with the soon to be hard fought Battle of Ortona.  It is also helpful in portraying the basic tools of the infantry section.  The picture captures a fire team poised for action, with the Bren gunner ready to shoot from cover.  The soldier with the binoculars is Lieutenant Macdonald who is said to have ordered an attack from San Leonardo after the picture was taken.  San Leonardo was a hard won objective which became the main line of advance for the 1st Canadian Division.  Beyond San Leonardo was the infamous "gully", which was a brutal killing ground for the Canadians.  The town of Ortona itself was only gained by close quarters fighting conducted street by street, and building by building, with severe casualties taken by both the 1st German Parachute Division, and the Canadians.  Several Lee-Enfield rifles are shown, and the soldier standing holds a Thompson sub-machine gun, issued to Canadian troops in the Mediterranean theatre.  In all likelihood, the photo is posed, but that does not diminish its historical interest.
Platoon Commander Lieutenant I. Macdonald (with binoculars) ready to give order to attack at S. Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943. Left to right, Sergeant J.T. Cooney, Privates A.R. Downie, O.E. Bernier, G.R. Young (kneeling, with Lee-Enfield rifle), Corporal T. Fereday and Private S.L. Hart (lying down with Bren gun) all of the 48th Highlanders.  http://wwii.ca/content-49/world-war-ii/towards-ortona-the-moro/

Further investigation yields a family tragedy.  The man crouched on the far right, directly above the Bren-gunner, is Lance Corporal Terry Fereday.  A survey of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission register shows that Fereday would be killed in action eight days later on the 18th of December.  Fereday is buried in the Moro River cemetery.
Globe and Mail, 24 December 1943, p5.
 The tragedy of Fereday's death is heightened by the death of his brother, Eric J. Fereday, killed in an accident in Prince Rupert the day after Terry. The Fereday family in Scarborough would have a grief-stricken Christmas in 1943.  The fate of Barney, the third son of the Fereday family, and also an airman in the RCAF, is unknown.
Globe and Mail, 31 December 1943. p.2.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Bath of Bubbly in Brandon: Captain Vivian bathes in his Profits

Few writers can top the late Pierre Berton in the use of colourful anecdotes to add life and interest to the history books.  His work on the construction of the C.P.R.'s main line, The Last Spike, is one of the most readable books in Canadian history.  His account of a certain Captain Vivian, in the heady days of 1881, when the C.P.R. thrust its main line due west from Winnipeg, and real estate speculation was in its heyday, is worth re-telling.  Vivian was English gentry in bearing, sported a gleaming monocle, and spent a thousand pounds on a quarter section near Brandon.  As Berton recounted:
Rosser St. and 6th Ave. Brandon, 1882.   MHS Source: S. J. McKee Archives, Brandon University, Lawrence Stuckey Collection C1

"Vivian sank the entire sum into a quarter section homestead in the Brandon district, which he proceeded to sell at inflated prices.  By February he was said to be worth four hundred thousand dollars.  Unable to drink up all the champagne he had purchased, he filled a bathtub with it and invited his friends to watch him splash about.  The affair cost him seven hundred and fifty dollars."

Berton reports that the Brandon real estate boom was so sudden that no cemetery was planned and the dead had to be shipped back to Winnipeg.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Diaper Drill: Infant Training Vol. 1 1939

Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-008102 .  
The Second World War Canadian Armoured Corps journal The Tank, provides an interesting look into the professional and social life of the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Borden, Ontario.  An editorial of September 1942 provides the standard drill for the changing of diapers, which given reports in the journal, were skills necessary for a number of Canadians in England.

"S/Sgts Hughes, Stacy and Borman have been appointed instructors in Diaper Drill.  The following are "extracts" from "Infant Training Vol. 1 1939."  On the command "Change Diapers" the following procedure will be adopted.

     One. Place the infant upwards, head pointing to the left, on lap.

     Two.  With a smart movement of the right forefinger and thumb, detach safety pin (feel for it) and place same between the lips, point to the front.

     Three. Supporting infant with the left had, open the flaps of diaper with the right, giving the infant a smart cant upwards with the left hand, jerk diaper away with right, and place it on ground two inches from rear of right hind leg of char (with chairs, folding MK 2, put level with crossbar).

     Five.  Carefully clean and oil infant with rags, white, pattern C2.  Sprinkle all parts with dusting powder and examine thoroughly for wear.

     Six Cant infant smartly upward with the left hand, at the same time taking clean diaper from its position on right shoulder.  Spread diaper on lap.

     Seven.  Assemble diaper as taught in Elementary Diaper Drill and secure with safety pin.  Tension on pin should not exceed 2 lbs.

     Note. App. VIII.  This sequence will not apply to the new diaper, zipper type, pattern 39, which will be on issue through the usual channels."

It appears that there is still contemporary use for strict guidelines on infant operation.  Here poor old Stephen Harper receives a jab at his powers of the people :

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Flying Vehicles: Canadian Army Vehicles in Flight, 1942

A number of pictures from 1942 show the enthusiasm for obtaining first flight for army vehicles in Camp Borden.  Borden was the centre of Canadian Armoured Corps activities in Canada during the war, and trained innumerable reinforcements for Canadian units overseas.  While some tactical manoeuvres were carried out at Borden, in the early years, the task was largely to turn recruits with basic or no training whatsoever into specialized tradesmen.  Courses on gunnery, wireless, and driving and maintenance sought to familiarize troopers with the tricks of the trade.  Many men arriving in England in the years before 1943, however, would be inadequately trained in the most basic trades.  This is no reflection on the efforts at Borden, but shows the massive expansion of the Canadian Armoured Corps, which possessed only a handful of Great War-era Renaults at the outbreak of hostilities.
 Above and Below: August 1942, The Tank - Canada

Title: Military personnel driving a jeep at Camp Borden Date: [ca. 1942]
Place: CAMP BORDEN (ONT.) Creator: Gordon W. Powley
Format: Black and white negative Reference Code: C 5-1
Item Reference Code: C 5-1-0-67-12 Ontario Archives
Getting army vehicles airborne cannot be considered a logical tactical manoeuvre.  Attempting to jump minefields is not standard operating procedure!  It is possible that the men are putting jeeps and carriers through their paces, but more likely that these flying jeeps were launched for publicity purposes.  The Canadian public grew increasingly anxious for their army to take part in the war, and especially after Hitler's panzerkampfwagens stormed across France in May 1940, mechanized warfare was on the mind.  The public conducted buy-a-tank campaigns as a way to show their support, raising money for the government to purchase armoured fighting vehicles.  If the Canadian public perceived modern war as highly mechanized, then pictures of high-flying vehicles may have served to bolster the idea that the Canadian army was doing its utmost to gain proficiency.  Whatever the motivation, the launching of army vehicles made for some great photos. Perhaps these army drivers should have joined the Royal Canadian Air Force?!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Poster: UofC Pearl Harbor Colloquium, 8 December 2011

UofC Pearl Harbor Colloquium, 8 December 2011

The History Graduate Students' Union and Calgary Military Museums' Society are pleased to announce a special colloquium and reception in honour of the 70th Anniversary of the Japanese attacks on the British Empire and the U.S. featuring talks by John Ferris and Christopher Bell.

This evening is the second session of the annual "New Perspectives Colloquium," and is host to two talks by pre-eminent historians.  Professor John Ferris, a noted historian of British intelligence and strategy will speak about his current research on British and American intelligence in the lead up to Pearl Harbor. He will be followed by Dr. Christopher Bell of Dalhousie University, who will speak about Canadian soldiers and the attack on Hong Kong.
The colloquium will be held at the Kensington Legion (1910 Kensington Rd NW Calgary).  The evening will run on 8 December 2011, from 6:30-9:00 pm, and will include a New York steak dinner. Admission for the general public is $40.00.  Veterans and students are particularly encouraged to attend and registration for both is only $20.00.  Tickets can be purchased securely through PayPal or at the door (cash or check only).  Follow the link at the history department website to register: http://hist.ucalgary.ca/hgsu/
To RSVP (registration must be received by December 1, 2011) or for more information, please email The History Graduate Students' Union at ranke@ucalgary.ca, or call (403) 220-2669.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Canadian Smokes for English Girls: Strathcona's Ladies' Auxiliary, 1942

A December 1942 issue of the Canadian Armoured Corp's journal The Tank notes the appreciation of the soldiers of the Lord Strathcona's Horse for the cigarettes sent overseas from the Ladies' Auxiliary in Calgary and Winnipeg.  Notes from the Sergeants' Mess stated:

"Our sincere thanks are due to the Ladies' Auxiliary in Calgary and Winnipeg who have done wonders, with the help of the Navy, in keeping us supplied with cigarettes.  The shortage of smokes is not as acute as it was when we first arrived over here but just the same the cartons from Canada are very welcome - there seems to be no smoke like a Canadian one.  Even the girls over here have developed a taste for them and when one of the English girls gets romantic over a strapping Westerner it's hard to tell if it's love at first sight or a desire to light up.  To the Ladies we say thank you."

An ad from Dec. 1942 "The Tank"

One can only assume that the Ladies' Auxiliary were none too pleased that their cigarette contributions were being used to court young English women.  Wives back in Canada, would have been justified in asking the Brits to butt out!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

James Jerome Hill: A Bit of a Pirate

JJ Hill, by Getty.  Inc.com
One of the founding members of the Canadian Pacific Railway is given a colourful introduction in Pierre Berton's classic popular history The Last Spike (1971).  Berton notes that Hill was, "a tougher and rougher specimen than his colleagues.  With his single, burning eye, his short, lion's beard and long mane, he looked like a bit of a pirate, which, in truth, he was."  As a child of nine Hill had lost his eye in an accident.  In his youth he had to work as a clerk in an Upper Canadian grocery store to help his impoverished family.  In 1856 Hill would begin to build his railway empire from scratch.  He moved to the booming city of St. Paul, and soon began his own shipping company.  This meagre start was the base for numerous railway interests.  In 1874, he teamed together with Donald Smith, Norman Kittson, and George Stephen to complete the St. Paul and Pacific railway to the Canadian border.  This partnership would lead to his eventual position on the board of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Berton attributes the decision-making of Hill, who had been convinced by naturalist John Macoun that the southern prairies were inhabitable, as instrumental in selecting the southern route through Calgary and the yet to be explored Kicking Horse Pass, instead of along the old settlements on the North Saskatchewan River.  The original route, surveyed by Sandford Fleming, bore northwest from Selkirk, Manitoba (near Winnipeg), and continued through Battleford and the Yellowhead pass.  Due to the selection of the southerly route, the nascent communities of Brandon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Calgary were all to flourish into metropolitan centres on the northern Great Plains.

The southern route was also more ideally located to curb competition from the closest American railway, the Northern Pacific, and any other Canadian railways that may have emerged when the CPR monopoly clause, which prohibited railways building within 15 miles of the international border, ran out.

A central tenant of Hill's railway philosophy was that the first railway through the frontier would generate its own business.  As Hill claimed, "if we build this road across the prairie, we will carry every pound of supplies that the settlers want and we will carry every pound of produce that the settlers wish to sell, so that we will have freight both ways."

Hill would leave the CPR in 1883, due to the mismanagement of the Manitoba line, which Hill felt was neglected due to the larger projects of the CPR.  In 1889 the Manitoba line would become the Great Northern railway, and grow to dominate the northern American plains to the Pacific.  Hill is regarded as one of the greatest empire builders of nineteenth century North American business.

Canadian Encyclopedia Article on Hill

Friday, November 18, 2011

Brigadier Chris Vokes' Brothel: Sicily, 1943

 Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1985-35-8
Copyright: Government of Canada
Venereal disease does not rank very high on the list of valorous ways to become a casualty of war.  Nonetheless, VD, a now outdated medical term referring to sexually transmitted infections, left many Second World War soldiers incapacitated and left out of battle.  The problem was acute enough in the Sicilian campaign for the officer commanding 2 Canadian Infantry Brigade, Brigadier-General Chris Vokes, to take matters into his own hands.  His orders to a young British officer on his staff were to set up an army-run brothel.  The women were to be inspected by medical officers and insured as "clean".  Soldiers were to be issued with what Vokes referred to in his memoirs as a "French letter", or condom.  Unfortunately for Vokes (and lusty Canadian soldiers), the Eighth Army Headquarters caught wind of the scheme, and an order with a very explicit message was distributed:


Chris Vokes. Department of National Defence
Reportedly the young British officer, who had the decidedly unmacho nickname of "Taffy", had the house of ill repute completely organized by the time the Eighth Army message arrived.  He burst into Vokes' headquarters elated at his achievements.

"Brigadier, we are all set to open tomorrow at ten o'clock.  I have never seen so many enthusiastic girls in my life... the madame, and the pimp and the girls...! GEE!  And we want you to come down and cut the tape.  Everything is organized.  Everything is going to be first class!"

Vokes broke the bad news.  There was to be no brothel. Taffy was much dejected.

"My God, sir," he said. "Those whores will cut my throat!"

Vokes replied, "Well, perhaps so, Taffy.  Before that happens try paying them off."

Reportedly the women, (imported from Catania for the purposes), accepted the offer of 100 Lire each (the madame got 500 and the pimp 300). Poor "Taffy" survived the great brothel incident of 1943 with his neck intact.
 Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1985-35-7

For further military posters against venereal disease see the US National Library of Medicine Site.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forming of Brandon: C.P.R Real Estate Control

Pierre Berton's The Last Spike contains numerous examples to prove that real estate speculation was a major facet in the development of Canada's prairie west.  The forming of the town of Brandon shows how the Canadian Pacific Railway shaped the region, and thwarted speculators and homesteaders alike in order to maximize its own profits on land sales.  In 1881, the decision to build the CPR's southern route towards the yet to be discovered Kicking Horse Pass had been made.  Those who were savvy to the needs of the railroad knew that a divisional point would be needed about one hundred and thirty miles west of Winnipeg, where a settlement on the Assiniboine river by the name of Grand Valley was already situated.

Settlement Stories from Manitoba.  Ken Storie.
Thomas Rosser. MHS.
The McVicar brothers were first settlers in the area, coming in 1879.  Farming the area for two years, the McVicar's were visited two years later by US Civil war veteran, General  Thomas L. Rosser, the engineer who was surveying the route.  Rosser offered the brothers a healthy sum of money (Pierre Berton notes in The Last Spike that the amount varies from $25,000 to $50,000), but John McVicar, despite being flabbergasted by the huge sum, was convinced by some neighbours to hold out for more money and perhaps even interests in future sales.  General Rosser reportedly replied to this counteroffer, "I'll be damned if a town of any kind is ever built here."

True to his word, no divisional point was set up at Grand Valley, and the town of Brandon emerged two miles further west.  Berton reports that it was later proven that Rosser and other CPR officials were in fact speculating in real estate themselves, making personal profit off inside knowledge of future station locations.

 Ken Storie's Settlement Stories from Manitoba. has great detail and further pictures, maps and newsclippings of Grand Valley and Brandon during the railway era.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Misery in the Retreat from Kabul: First Afghan War, 1842

The First Anglo-Afghan war proves that regime change can be a bloody affair needing public support to succeed.  The struggle with Russia for power in central Asia, known to history as the Great Game, led to the desire for British control over Afghanistan, as a buffer for their power base in India. In 1839, Britain wished to replace Emir Dost Mohammad with a more friendly ruler.  In doing so they precipitated revolt.  Kabul was taken easily enough in 1840, but with the situation deteriorating, on 6 January 1842 the 4500 soldiers and 12000 camp followers began their retreat to Jalalabad under the command of Major General William Elphinstone.  The effects of Afghan raiders on this column were devastating:

Last Stand of the 44th Regiment at Gundamuck, 1842. William Barnes Wollen
"The road was strewn with the mangled corpses of their comrades and the stench of death was in the air - All along the route they had been passing little groups of camp-followers, starving, frostbitten, and many of them in a state of gibbering idiocy.  The Afghans, not troubling to kill these stragglers, had simply stripped them and left the cold to do its work and now the poor wretches were huddling together naked in the snow, striving hopelessly to keep warm by the heat of their own bodies.  There were women and little children among them, who piteously stretched out their hands for succour ... Later the Afghans were to report with relish that the unhappy fugitives, in their blind instinct to preserve life a little longer, had been reduced to eating the corpses of their fellows.  But they all died in the end." Patrick Macory, Signal Catastrophe, p.244.

Only a single man survived the march from Kabul, while several senior officers, including Elphinstone, had been taken prisoner.  The words of a Captain Backhouse, a party in the relief force marching back to Kabul against the lines of retreat, portray a grisly scene: "the sight of the remains of the unfortunate Caubul force was fearfully heartrending.  They lay in heaps of fifties and hundreds, our gun wheels passing over and crushing the skulls and other bones of our late comrades at almost every yard." (Dixon, Psychology of Military Incompetence, 78-79).
Remnants of an Army.  Elizabeth Butler